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Scouting report: Enner Valencia

A brief look at what Everton’s new loanee is bringing to Goodison, with some added thoughts on the window as a whole

West Ham United v Everton - FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Transfer deadline day perhaps didn’t deliver as much as it promised, but Everton did manage to land West Ham United forward Enner Valencia on a season-long loan. With the Toffees off this weekend, in lieu of my usual match preview I thought I’d give some thoughts on the new signing and the window as a whole.

General impression

Valencia is 26, turning 27 in two months, which for forwards generally indicates a player nearing the end of their peak. Based on goals alone, Valencia was most prolific at age 23-24. The good news is that this is just a loan so Everton aren’t looking for long term production here.

Positionally he is generally a center forward but West Ham often used him on the wing as well (mostly left). Certainly not a traditional poacher, he seems more the player to pick up the ball in deeper positions and run at players or hit long shots. In that sense you’d be tempted to call him a false nine but traditionally false nines are also providers, which Valencia really isn’t.

Video courtesy of Red-E SportsHD

Numbers and fit

The first thing to note is that Valencia didn’t get a ton of minutes last year, mostly due to injury but partly also by virtue of not being first choice at his position. With that being said, he was moderately productive when he did play, averaging just over 3 shots and about 0.36 goals per 90 minutes—not bad for a winger, sort of mediocre for a striker. His assist/key pass numbers are less impressive, and looking at where he fits in with Everton’s other attackers you start to get the impression that he profiles more or less as a Koné-esque backup striker:

In general, better creators will be towards the top of the graph, better scorers towards the right; Expected goals are courtesy of Paul Riley

Underwhelming as that sounds, that’s essentially what Everton will probably ask him to be. Despite his speed he has pretty similar dribbling stats to Koné as well, and he also has a similar tendency to the Ivorian to shoot from outside the box.

Tactically, Valencia will be more useful in transition than if Everton are camped out in their opponent’s box. The Hammers were a decent counter-attacking side last year and while he didn’t exactly set the world on fire there I think he at least fits that kind of role. As such you can probably expect to see him off the bench late in games if Everton are trying to hold a lead, against opposition to whom Ronald Koeman is willing to cede some possession, or against weaker opposition in general (cup games, etc.).

Valencia is a half-decent depth signing for the Toffees at a position that needed it. It’s concerning that he may not be an upgrade in quality from Koné, but he does have a slightly different style, which gives Koeman options. Lurking in the background here is the Oumar Niasse conundrum—on paper, Niasse is a better version of Valencia and fits a similar role, but for whatever reason no one at the club thinks he’s any good. In any case, overall this is not much to write home about and in truth I’ve probably devoted too many words to the whole thing already.

Some thoughts on the window

With Valencia wrapped up, here’s more or less what Everton’s squad is looking like (you don’t have to agree with who is ahead of who or exactly what position is their best, the purpose is just to show general depth):

The spine of the team still seems thin to me. Gareth Barry looks great now but his bones will eventually turn to dust and with Muhamed Bešić’s legs seemingly made of toothpicks it’s unclear what the plan is there. Goalkeeper is similar in that there is a player who looks alright right now but isn’t getting younger coupled with a lack of long term vision at the position. Across the backline the average age is 31, with a huge gap to the youngsters filled only by the polarizing Ramiro Funes Mori.

It wasn’t exactly an unproductive window but the feeling lingers that it could have been more. As it stands the club are taking baby steps rather than giant leaps forward but after the calamity of the last two seasons the size of the steps is less important than their direction. They are in position this season to be competitive with the likes of Southampton, West Ham, and possibly Leicester, and they could plausibly be described as on the rise. For now, I think that’s enough.